Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stops Along the Way

We drove 12,000 kms on our recent trip to Baja. On driving days, the highlights are often the coffee and restaurant stops. For my own memory as much as anything, here are some of the places we stopped on the way back. For a change we drove up the coast through California. The coastal highway is spectacular. But I hate the endless freeways through San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Since we didn't have internet access when driving in the US, we often relied on our Garmin Nuvi car GPS to find coffee shops and restaurants. It doesn't have everything, but it's a whole lot better than nothing. There are challenges to using it though. It doesn't have any information about the coffee shops or the restaurants, so you have to try to figure out from the name what it's going to be like. When there are no local coffee shops we'll fall back on Starbucks, but even that can be frustrating because the GPS doesn't differentiate between a "real" Starbucks and one in a grocery store or casino.

Fourchette (Ensenada) - We stayed overnight at the Best Western El Sid in Ensenada. It was nothing to write home about, but it was ok. The area around it was full of bars and seemed designed for young americans visiting on spring break. Luckily we asked at the hotel for a recommendation for someone quiet and good and they sent us to this italian place just around the corner. The food wasn't anything special, but it was small and quiet, exactly what we were looking for. There was also a good tea and coffee house right across the street from the hotel. (And a Starbucks a few blocks away.)

Santos Coffee House (San Diego) - There were lots of Starbucks as we got into San Diego from the Tecate crossing, but we opted for something else. This was a nice little neighbourhood place with friendly staff and good coffee.

Novo Restaurant Lounge (San Luis Obispo) - The deck overlooking the river is a great place to be on a nice day, and the food is good.

Eric Ericssons on the Pier (Ventura) - We made a pilgrimage to the Great Pacific Iron Works in Ventura, Patagonia's first retail store that opened in 1970. We asked at the store where to eat and they suggested Eric Ericssons on the Pier,  not so much for the food, as for the view. We had a decent meal and a fantastic view of the sunset over the ocean.

Miss Pearls (Oakland) - We stopped overnight at the Joie de Vivre Waterfront Hotel, mostly because I'd stayed there before, and it was on our route. After driving all day we didn't feel like going out so we ate at Miss Pearls in the hotel. It also has a nice view over the waterfront. Joie de Vivre is an interesting company, check out its founder Chip Conly on TED or his books.

Urban Blend Cafe (Oakland) - An interesting coffee shop in an old gas station. I visited here on previous trips. I like the black and white photos on the walls, I wonder who's they are?

Trinks Cafe (Gualala) - We were looking for somewhere to eat in this small town with a view of the ocean. We pulled into the parking lot for the Seacliff Motel. There was a small restaurant but it didn't look like anything special. Before we left, we stopped into the Ansel Adams gallery next door. As we left, we asked where to eat and he recommended Trinks next door and it turned out to be a good choice.

Requa Inn (Klamath) - We had planned to camp in the Redwoods, and actually managed to reach the turnoff to the campground while it was still light out. But it was closed for the winter (as were many of the campgrounds). After driving all day we couldn't get motivated to search for an open campground in the dark so we consulted the GPS and it came up with "Historic Requa Inn" which sounded interesting. It turned out to be a lovely little place. We sat in their comfortable lounge area and drank some Oregon Pinot Noir :-) In the morning they suggested a back road through the Redwoods. It was a small windy road, but I loved the chance to see the big trees. I only wished we had more time to spend there.

Barrio (Bend) - We stopped in Bend to check it out - it seemed like a nice town. We went to The Wine Shop to pick up some Oregon wine to take home, and they recommended Barrio. It's a small, cozy place, not too fancy. The tapas were excellent. On the way out of town we picked up coffee from Looney Bean.

Catalyst (Missoula) - We were expecting just a coffee shop, but this is a cross between a coffee shop and a restaurant. Had a great breakfast here before hitting the road.

Twist (Medicine Hat) - We haven't spent much time in Medicine Hat and weren't sure what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised with this place. Chosen by "Where to Eat in Canada" as one of Canada's best for the last three years in a row.

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